NYC Marathon 2016

3rd marathon complete!

Summary:

  • 4:50:46 finish (~6 minutes under my A goal)
  • slowest (and best) marathon to date!
  • negative split!
  • no walking
  • one potty break
  • black toenail but otherwise no physical isssues (a first!)

Now the long version (if you have the patience to read it I salute you).

PRE-RACE PREPARATIONS

11/3 – Thursday

Robert and I took a Lyft to our motel in Seatac and ate dinner at Dave’s Diner & Brew. It happened to be Aloha Thursday so I scarfed down a plate of pork katsu, mac salad, and white rice covered in soy sauce. Let the carb loading begin.

11/4 – Friday

We had an early flight so staying in an airport Hampton Inn made things a lot less stressful. Thankfully they serve breakfast starting at 5am so I ate a bowl of oatmeal with brown sugar, dried fruits, and nuts before heading out.

On the flight over we snacked on pretzels, jerky, cheese, and more pretzels. I also snuck in a glass of wine (my first one in 7 days).

Once we arrived in NYC we got settled in our hotel in the Financial District and then headed to Fraunces Tavern for a few beers and then dinner. I highly recommend the chicken pot pie (and I had another glass of wine). I was feeling pretty relaxed and confident and I figured a glass of wine wasn’t going to mess with an easy paced marathon. (I was right!)

11/5 – Saturday

Hotel coffee and a Picky Bar for breakfast and then I got in a quick 3 mile shake out run along the lower east side of Manhattan. I started getting butterflies thinking about the upcoming marathon. This was the first time I’ve run the day before a marathon and I felt great. I can’t say this enough: running easier has helped me to run more mileage, stay injury-free, and feel fully recovered soon after each run. I felt pretty burned out at the end of my previous marathon cycles. I don’t ever want to do that again.

Brooklyn Bridge viewing on my 3 mile shake out run.
Brooklyn Bridge viewing on my 3 mile shake out run.

Second breakfast was an Americano and a blueberry muffin, then we headed to the marathon expo. As I expected, it was packed and I didn’t want to spend too much time on my feet so I grabbed my bib and made a quick run through the vendor aisles. I happened to walk past both Kara Goucher and Meb Keflezghi just before we left.

Kara Goucher at the expo
Kara Goucher at the expo
Meb Keflezighi at the expo
Meb Keflezighi at the expo

We had lunch at Haymaker Bar which isn’t too far from the expo in Chelsea. I enjoyed a few sour beers and some excellent macaroni and cheese. I also started sipping on Gatorade Endurance (basically I’d have a drink of beer and then a swig of Gatorade; this is a winning combo, I swear).

Finally, we picked up some deli food from Whole Foods to take back to the hotel. I ended up with some basmati rice, garlic mashed potatoes, and braised chicken, plus some Coney Island beer.

Once back at the hotel, I started clothing prep. Robert went out to find sharpies to write my name (“b-kat”) on duct tape and to look for a few other items for me (a cheap blanket and socks to use as temporary arm warmers). He returned with empty hands. Who knew that Duane Reade closes at 6pm on a Saturday night. The financial district is a great place to get to the Staten Island ferry but it’s not ideal for shopping. Robert headed out again to a Target in Soho and returned with sharpies. (Fortunately, the weather was great (about 54 degrees at start time and very little wind) and I didn’t need the blanket or the socks after all.)

Race gear and nutrition ready to go
Race gear and nutrition ready to go

I had planned to wear my Oiselle shorts and Under Armor tank BUT Robert found out that Tracksmith was selling an NYC 16 singlet, and they were delivering to NYC hotels so we had it shipped to us (and we had a credit so we got it for $20). I couldn’t pass up wearing it with my matchy-matchy Tracksmith shorts. I know they say that you shouldn’t wear something new on race day but I was feeling pretty confident that it wouldn’t be an issue. I got all my stuff ready to go and got to bed by 10pm.

RACE DAY – 11/6 – Sunday

I woke at 6:45am. I slept pretty well despite there being some kind of bachelorette or wedding party across the hall from us (2am drunken loud talking) and a seemingly non-stop garbage truck pickup of 4,000 dumpsters just outside our window. We got a bonus hour of sleep due to the time change as well. Excellent.

I ate my overnight oats (w/ extra salt added) and had a banana, plus a cup of coffee and a tiny sip of water. My plan was to get to the Athlete’s Village and drink a little more water and maybe eat a bagel and maybe take a nap. At the last minute I tossed some Clif apple, cinnamon oatmeal into my start bag along with a small disposable bottle of Gatorade Endurance and we headed to the ferry terminal (Robert would accompany as far as the busses on Staten Island).

Ferry Terminal = MAYHEM.

We got in “line” with a large group of runners. There are 3 doors in the terminal for loading passengers and they were all closed and runners was waiting at each set of doors. We picked the wrong door, apparently, because after 5 or 10 minutes the door furthest from us opened and passengers started flowing through. We headed that direction only to see the door closing before we got there so we turned around and headed back to the door we were originally waiting at (assuming, since it had the most people waiting at it, it would be next to load). Again, a different door opened and we moved in its direction only to be shut out once again. The ferry comes every 15 minutes but we weren’t getting anywhere. We headed back to our original area and I refused to budge. Again, a far away door opened. People moved in its direction but we stayed put. People kept moving through the open door. A ferry employ came up to us and said “Go that way! There’s plenty of room.” Boy, I was going to punch him after we got shut out again. And… we got through. I have no idea what was going on but it wasn’t fun. When we finally got on the ferry we barely managed to find a seat. Little did I know I wouldn’t get to sit down again until 4:30pm. We got to watch one marathon runner eat an entire Subway sandwich and potato chips. I hoped that I wouldn’t be running anywhere near him when it all came up.

Staten Island Ferry ride with Robert
Staten Island Ferry ride with Robert

After exiting the ferry we stood in the terminal. And stood and stood and stood. We slowly moved forward, pressed in by bodies all around us. I told Robert that this so made me never want to run this race again. After what seemed like another half an hour we emerged from the terminal to the bus lines. Bus after bus pulled up to carry runners off to the start line and I figured I’d be settled in a seat in no time. Robert said good-bye and I waited in what looked like the worst airport security line ever. It snaked back and forth and maybe after 20 more minutes I was near the front but after attempting to get on one bus and being denied due to lack of room I got on another one only to find there were no more seats. I’d heard the bus ride was 20 minutes or so and I wasn’t too concerned about standing (even though I’d been standing already for at least 90 minutes in the terminals). I’m not sure if there was something unusual going on but our bus took over 40 minutes to get to the start and there was a lot of starting and stopping. It was also pretty hot on the bus and people were sweating and some were looking a bit car sick. My corral was supposed to open at 10:15am and close at 10:40am and our bus finally arrived around 10:30am. Argh!!!

They rushed us through security (almost as if they knew we’d been screwed by the bus ride) and I made my way to the port-a-potty line as I sucked down the Clif oatmeal I had thankfully thought to bring with me. There was no way I was going to start this race without a potty stop and I wasn’t really concerned about getting shut out of my corral. I was in the last corral, in the last wave. What were they doing to do? Make me go home? (Funny to think that I figured I could use the port-a-potty like 4 times + have time to read a few magazines or nap while I waited.)

Thankfully, the lines for the port-a-potty weren’t that long and, bonus, a woman tossed me some wet wipes. Woohoo! Just as I exited the port-a-potty they announced that my corral was closing in 8 minutes. I was directed to the orange group (not very far from the entrance, fortunately) and I madly tore off my toss away sweatpants and sweatshirt. Within minutes I was in my corral, standing around, waiting again. As we waited, a recorded voice over the loud speaker reminded us, in several languages, to not pee on the bridge. Amusing. Finally, after 11am, I heard a cannon go off and we started walking towards the Verrazano Bridge. I could hear the National Anthem being sung in the distance. As we walked,  I chatted with a 73 year old runner who looked incredibly fit. She’d run 2 Boston marathons in the 90s and was shooting for a 6 hour marathon this time around, her 5th NYC marathon. I wished her luck and nearly missed hitting start on my Garmin as we casually walked over the start line. The race was on. I honestly don’t remember hearing Frank Sinatra singing “New York, New York.”

Miles 1-2: The Bridge

I had 2 strategies to chose from for this marathon: Follow heart rate or pace bracelet (customized for a 4:45 finish and a slight negative split). When I checked my heart rate before we started running it was already 138bpm. Hm. If it shot up above 150 when I started I’d switch to my pace bracelet.

I jogged slowly, dodging through people who were planning to walk the entire marathon, apparently, and checked my HR: 162bpm. Nope. Not gonna do it; so the pace bracelet it is.

My pace bracelet had a 12:37 first mile and I had no idea how’d I’d manage to achieve that pace. My watch read 13:30 for at least the first half mile and I knew I shouldn’t waste my energy on weaving so I tried to spot openings and dash through them. I finally managed to “speed” up a little and finished mile 1 in 12:32. Oops. A little too fast. (I know from experience that even 5 seconds off pace can screw with you later on.)

Mile 2 is a downhill and I tried my hardest to speed up but it was hard to do with the crowds. I was shooting for 10:08 but only hit 10:27. As I was running down the bridge I looked over at Manhattan, way off in the distance. I could see the Empire State building and the entire skyline. I looked up at a helicopter just hovering over us and waved. It was like a crazy, amazing dream. How is this my life!!?

Garmin Splits: 12:32, 10:27

Miles 3-8: Brooklyn

As all 3 color groups exited the bridge from top left, top right, and bottom, we reconnected in Brooklyn to the sounds of bands and incredibly excited crowds. I didn’t want to get too caught up with the crowds yet so I stayed on the inside of the road and focused on not tripping (fortunately most of the jackets and large items had been dropped in the first mile). I checked my pace bracelet at each mile and after a few miles I realized I was reading it wrong (I was confused and running based on the mile marker I’d just passed instead of the mile I was in). Oops. No wonder that last mile felt way too easy. No wonder this one feels too hard. I sorted that all out and figured I hadn’t done too much damage. The miles flew by and I felt great. Brooklyn, I heart you.

I held onto my little bottle of Gatorade Endurance until mile 5. I didn’t want to mess with the crowded water stations (at each mile starting at mile 3) so early on. That was a good call. It helped me make up a little time and get into the flow of things.

Garmin Splits: 11:22, 10:49, 10:38, 10:59, 10:33, 10:49 (Official 5K: 35:44, 10K: 1:09:33)

Miles 9-15: Brooklyn and Queens

Guess who I saw just before mile 9? Robert! We’d planned a few meet up areas beforehand and this was the first one he was going to attempt to get to (he ran a lot to find me!!). I spotted him right away, in his Boston Marathon shirt, and was so happy see him. I ran up to him and gave him a hug and then he ran with me for a half block and then said he’d run up to the 10 mile marker if he could. Sure enough, I saw him once again at mile 10. Yay! As he took off again, running to mile 11 on the sidewalk, two orthodox Jews who were standing somewhat bewildered in their doorway looked at each other as if to say, Who is this guy? Is he lost?

The north part of Brooklyn on Bedford Avenue got really crowded to the point where it was almost impossible to run but it was really exciting too. Apparently Robert was there at mile 11 as well but we never saw each other. I continued on while he caught a subway to Manhattan. At mile 13 we crossed over into Queens. I checked my overall time at 13.1 (half marathon mark) and it was around 2:24 which was a minute slower than my goal time. Also, due to weaving, my watch was beeping in splits about .1 miles before the actual mile markers showed up. In the back of my head I stilled wanted to shoot for a negative split but after seeing how hard it was to move through the crowds, and messing up with my pace band, I didn’t have high hopes.

Also, I was starting to think I would need to stop for a port-a-potty at some point soon so I quit thinking about the negative split goal. My new goal was to continue feeling good.

My hamstring was doing pretty well, too, just a little tightness/cramping, and I thought about stretching it as we passed over the Pulaski Bridge but I put it off and then it loosened up and I didn’t notice it for the rest of the run. I’m going to say it’s 98% healed. I am so grateful that I was able to continue running/training during that injury.

Garmin Splits: 11:13, 10:53, 11:13, 10:51, 11:13, 11:22, 11:36 (Official 15K: 1:43:40, 20K: 2:18:16, HALF: 2:26:12)

Miles 16-20: THE BRIDGE and the WALL OF SOUND

I would never have guessed that this portion of the marathon would be so easy for me. We started up the Queensboro Bridge. This was supposed to be the dreaded “first hill” (mile 1 is really the first hill but that doesn’t count) but I had zero issues with it. And even better, it was a wide open bridge and I was able to easily run through the walkers to make up some time. On the downhill side of the bridge I opened up my stride and really made up some time. Unfortunately my GPS totally went haywire on the bridge (it reported between 6 minute pace and 18 minute pace throughout) so I don’t really know how fast I was running but, at least compared to others around me, I felt like I was on fire. I will never again complain about having to run on the hills in Seattle. Totally worth it.

Coming off the bridge to the “wall of sound” I saw my chance to duck into a port-a-potty. There were about 10 at the bottom of the bridge and I only saw 3 people waiting. I jumped in the first one available to me and only noticed just as I grabbed the door that I’d actually butted in front of another runner. Oops! Sorry. Too late. I was in and out in 30 seconds at the most. Feeling good.

I saw Robert again at mile 18. He asked how I was feeling and I replied that I was feeling good. No. Great! My hips were working! My glutes were happy! All those jump squats and jumping lunges worked! Strength training saved my butt, literally!

Garmin Splits: 12:52 (gps wonkiness), 11:23 (potty stop), 10:49, 10:54 (Official 25K: 2:53:51, 30K: 3:28:11)

Mile 18
Mile 18. Good to see that I properly pulled my shorts back up after my quick port-a-potty stop. You never know…

Miles 20-24: The Bronx, Harlem, 5th Avenue, and the beginning of the Music Miles

I put in my headphones at this point. I’d put together 7 playlists with songs provided by my friends and family to tick off each of the last 7 miles. The assumption was I’d be struggling at this point and the music would help me out. Surprisingly, I still felt really fresh. I did a whole body check and the only thing I noticed was my right big toe was a little sore from the downhill section of the bridge and the descent onto 1st Avenue.

Wyatt’s playlist was first up to get me to mile 20. I had to pause it for a bit just as I entered The Bronx because there was a Chinese drum band and it was so loud (and awesome) that I couldn’t really hear anything coming through my headphones. The stand out song from his song list was “Where is My Mind” by Maxence Cyrin (covering the Pixies). As I listened to it, I felt like I was floating instead of running. It was superb. Good one, Wyatt.

My daughter Zoe’s song list got me to mile 21. As I descended the Madison Avenue Bridge, leaving the Bronx, “Empire State of Mind” by JAY Z & Alicia Keys, played in my ear holes and all I could think about were all the things that Zoe has achieved this year and how happy I am for her.

I started up my son Sid’s playlist to get me to mile 22. The stand out song from his playlist was “Sabotage” by The Beastie Boys. At this point my Gu Roctane had kicked in and I was pumped! I was running in Harlem, listening the the Beastie Boys. How did I get here? I thought about Sid’s 4 years at NYU and knew that I wouldn’t be running this race if it weren’t for him and his love of NYC. I have a tiny hope that one day he’ll embrace running and maybe he’ll even run this very same route in some distant November.

As I rounded Marcus Garvey Park, I pictured the course map in my head and I couldn’t believe I’d come this far. It’s such a different experience to run a lonely 20 miler on a Sunday morning and drag your butt back to the house in just under 4 hours, feeling like you’d been out there all day compared to this experience where time flies and you kind of don’t want it to end. I was actually a little sad that things were happening so fast.

I saw Robert on 5th Avenue and he said he’d catch up with me once more at mile 24 in the park. He’s the winner for most meet-ups along the course!

I also realized at this point that I had it in me to speed up if I wanted to. I still didn’t think I was in the ballpark of negative splitting but I wanted to fly (ironic since I kind of didn’t want the race to end).

This marathon is like being on an amusement park ride. It’s thrilling and exciting and noisy and it goes by too quickly. I could not believe I was already heading into the home stretch, feeling like a super star. Who am I even?

As I continued along 5th Avenue, heading into mile 23, my friend Chris’s playlist started. His second song was the Fairytale of New York and I have always loved that song. It gives me a lot of feels. And right after it started, I looked up ahead of me. Autumn colored trees lined the Avenue on both sides. The crowds were 10 people deep, swaying and cheering, and then I looked to my right and there were the boys of NYPD standing right there (really! three of them!) and I lost it. Happy cries. Such happy cries. Thanks for that, Chris!

Next up, my BFF Stacey’s songs were gonna get me to mile 24, up 5th Avenue and entering into the park. I’d never even heard the first song on her list but those lyrics sent me into another fit of crying, blubbery happiness. I imagined Stacey running along with me to “Good Life” by OneRepublic:

Oh this has gotta be the good life
This has gotta be the good life
This could really be a good life, good life

It’s possible I was a little delirious at this point. I had had a gel every 45-50 minutes. I was so full of sugar and caffeine. Weeee!!!! There was supposed to be a hill in here somewhere that people struggle through but I didn’t even notice it.

Garmin Splits: 10:54, 10:55, 10:56, 10:47, 10:50 (Official 35K: 4:02:44, 40K: 4:36:40)

Miles 24-26.3: Central Park and Columbus Circle. And THE END!

At the mile 24 marker I saw Robert one last time. He looked relieved to be done with his spectating duties! I waved goodbye and told him to get himself a beer.

My friend Alyssa’s playlist came up and when “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor started playing I had to chuckle because I was running down Cat Hill (and saw 2 people hovering up on the cat to cheer for us and 2 cops were running after them to shoo them off). Wow, how did I see all this? Oh, it must have been the sugar. Alyssa was my virtual companion on that mile. Someday I really do hope to run a marathon with her.

The final playlist came from Robert. I’d randomized people’s names for mile assignments and it was pretty appropriate to have his list come up last with its theme of misery and numbness:

AC/DC – Highway to Hell
Mountain Goats – This Year
Green Day – Give Me Novocaine
… and then …
… wait for it …
Pink Floyd – Comfortably Numb

As “Highway to Hell” faded away, I could see the park exit ahead. I moved to the left side of the course, next to the crowds along Central Park South in order to speed up (for some reason the slower runners and walkers were all sticking to the middle of the course). I high-fived anyone that would give me their hand while the Mountain Goats and Green Day pushed me forward. I couldn’t stop grinning. As I re-entered the park, “Comfortably Numb” started playing and I ran it in.

And somehow, I also ran a negative split.

Garmin Splits: 10:39, 10:15, 9:35 (.3) (Official MARATHON: 4:50:46)

POST RACE

After getting my medal, snacks (pretzels, protein shake, an apple, water, gatorade), and a heat sheet, then meandering about a half mile through the park to the exit (and at that point I realized besides 2 quick port-a-potty stops and a ferry ride, I’d been standing for a very long time). I got my lovely fleece-lined poncho, took a selfie and met up with Robert on 76th and Columbus. We took a very crowded subway, full of runners and their buddies plus a lot of somewhat annoyed looking people, back to the hotel, showered, beered up,* and then grabbed dinner at an Irish pub downstairs from our hotel (shepherd’s pie and 2 glasses of wine FTW)!

*After a hard, long run, one MUST beer up. It’s required.

Post poncho selfie
Post poncho selfie

I woke up the next morning with very little soreness. Just a bit of tightness in my hip flexors, hamstrings (oddly my right one was more sore than my injured left one) and my lower back. Oh, and my right big toenail is a going to fall off. That’s the second time this year, both times wearing Altra Paradigms. I made sure to cut my toenails but it didn’t make a difference. It’s winter now so who cares. Who needs toenails, anyway?

My quads are usually beat up after a marathon but this time around they were all like, “Eh, that was nothing.” The NYC course surprised me. It was easy and pleasant and perfect.

p.s. Huge kudos to the volunteers all along the course. They were amazing. Full of smiles, supportive words, and pats on the back. Thank you!

 

 

 

4 Comments

  1. It sounds like you had an awesome race. I’m so glad the music was a part of it. I love the image of Robert running all around New York to greet you.

    1. You have no idea how much that music helped pass the time during those last miles. It took me out of the usual negative headspace one tends to get in during the end of the marathon. And having Robert show all over the map was the icing on the cake. I think he was more fatigued than me in the end (he didn’t have a single sugary gel along his “run”).

  2. Great job and congrats! You stayed so positive throughout, which is awesome. And I liked reading about the last 7 miles with the 7 playlists. Seems like a great idea. I know everyone says NYCM is a must-do, but I’m curious – would you still recommend it, even after all of the logistics?

    1. It’s funny because I was just discussing this with Robert. He’s running next year and already having a lot of anxiety about the ferry/bus-to-the-start logistics and I have to say, now that I’ve experienced the whole package, it was totally worth it. With a marathon that big, it’s inevitable that something isn’t going to go very smoothly. I would say maybe give yourself a little extra time getting there. I don’t think I’ll ever run another marathon that can match this. I’d do it again in a heartbeat! Do it!!!

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